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The China Study: What we love, what we don’t love

Umami Girl reviews The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Here's what we love and what we really don't.

The China Study T Colin Campbell | Umami Girl 780

No celebrity stalking here

If you asked, I might divulge to you that I pride myself a little bit on being a confirmed non-celebrity-stalker. Alright fine, maybe I didn't wait for you to ask. Maybe I've been staying up late at night thinking of ways to work that little factoid into my daily conversations. Maybe I published it on my blog just now.

But the point is, I don't buy People or US Weekly, and when I page through those magazines at the hair salon, I don't recognize anyone under the age of 25. I hardly ever watch Behind the Music reruns. I don't really think celebrities, bless their shiny little hearts, are better than the rest of us. Call me crazy.

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves

Which is why it was a little weird last Thursday when this happened: I was at my usual gym, taking my usual Thursday morning class. Because I'm insanely fancy now and live in London and all, my class is taught by Dennis, who is, among other things I'm sure, one of Kate Hudson's personal trainers. You'd never hear it from him, of course, and I never find these things out on my own. That's what my girlfriends are for.

Anyway, on account of my double-jointedness and my good Jersey girl's inability to understand why I would ever want to keep my hips straight when they could be cocked, Dennis helped me out with my form on one of the exercises, which required him to touch my leg. No biggie, right? Right. Except my first thought when he did that went something like, "ZOMG HE TOUCHED MY LEG AND HE'S TOUCHED KATE HUDSON'S LEG AND KATE HUDSON IS SO FAMOUS AND I CAN'T EVEN STAND HOW FRIGGIN' FAMOUS I AM RIGHT NOW!!!!"

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves.

T. Colin Campbell, PhD

You might wonder, and justifiably so, why I'm telling you this in a post about the decidedly un-shiny, though increasingly famous, T. Colin Campbell and his book The China Study. (I mean, technically he is a movie star now, but I don't think he's ever kissed Matthew McConaughey on screen or anything.) It's because I got a little crazy about The China Study there for a minute or three — all ZOMG Kate Hudon's leg, if you will — and I think I owe you a quick peek into my actual, more considered opinion of the book. The kind of opinion I form after reading until I can't find anything on the topic anywhere in the world to read anymore, and then thinking until the very moment before my head bursts into flames from thinking so much. You know, the kind of opinion I usually try to give you around here. It's slightly horrifying, but that's the kind of thing I do all the time now that I work for myself.

I'll keep it brief. Here goes.

What we like about The China Study


Advocates eating mostly unprocessed and minimally processed plant-based foods to achieve and maintain good health. Given all that science knows — and all it doesn't know — about the way we humans tick, I can't see how this could be wrong.


Focuses on the benefits of whole foods rather than isolated nutrients, and generally acknowledges the limits of our current knowledge about the complex ways in which whole foods are good for our bodies.


Provides the reader with a sense of capability and empowerment about achieving good health.


Offers a simple nutritional strategy in an overly complicated field.


Provides insight into the ass-crazy political, industrial, and academic forces that often dictate what the public learns and doesn't learn about nutrition.

What we don't like about The China Study

Demonizes animal protein to an extent that doesn't seem justified by any research presented in the book, or any other research I have encountered. Of course, I don't pretend to be a scientist of any kind, but damned if I don't stalk a lot of nutritional scientists. (Maybe that's why I don't have time to stalk celebrities?)

I can think of lots of health-related reasons to dramatically limit our intake of animal products compared to the way most Westerners eat today, including making caloric room for lots of plant-based foods; minimizing exposure to the berserk toxins that a century of industrial pollution has dumped into our soil and water; not putting our minds and bodies at the mercy of profit-seeking "food" producers who...oh...feed the ground-up bones of diseased cows to other cows (and farmed fish!); and, to be sure, not overindulging in a food source that humans have historically eaten WAY less of than we currently do.

But The China Study takes things one giant leap further and essentially blames the consumption of animal protein for the diseases of civilization. I'm not at all convinced that the evidence supports such a strong conclusion.

The China Study, on your terms

So. I hope you'll read The China Study, and I hope you'll do so with all of this in mind. I hope you'll stack your diet with vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds. I hope you will glow with the light of a thousand suns.

Back soon with more good humor and good advice on using delicious food to kick life's pansy ass.


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  1. Henry doll

    I so enjoy your writing style! You must have one or more books in process, so when might we see something between covers?

    I’m currently in VT, helping a friend get her vegetable garden in. I know, eat yor heart out lol.

    Has your NJ accent given way to somewhat of an Olde Jersey accent? It ‘did’ happen to R Chamberlain. Lol

  2. Happy I stumbled upon your site… Aware and informative stuff. It’s great to see Dr. Campbell’s work getting out there. We thank you from the Ithaca area, where T. Colin resides. I agree, disease is more than animal products, and the proteins that lie within. If you like the China Study, you’ll love the documentary based on the research, “Forks Over Knives”.
    Dr. Campbell also offers an online Plant Nutrition certificate program, offered through T. Colin Campbell Foundation and ECornell.

  3. Lisa

    This is my new favorite blog. Thanks for making me laugh and making my morning. Going to the gym now.

  4. Oh man. How have I not found this blog until today? You are my favorite thing ever. I plan to spend most of my weekend going through the years of posts that I’ve missed out on and laughing/agreeing with everything you have to say about life. Soul sister. Is that too creepy? Or just too soon?

    Keep up the fantastic work. You’re friggin’ lovely.

    Corinne (a.k.a. willworkforfoodgirl)

  5. Sarah Harris

    What a surprise – thank you! Cannot wait to read it!

  6. Henr Doll

    Yikes! …thanks so much Carolyn!

    My internist and cardiologist thank you as well.

    Can’t wait, it’ll give me an excuse to head to one my friends’ places in VT, and ‘just read’. I love, love, all veggies, and could almost see myself going vegetarian but I’d need a full time prep service. Maybe this will inspire me to go deeper into veggie-land; I’m already nuts.

    Thanks again – you already know I love your work.

    . . .Henry

  7. Michelle

    Thanks for the book! I can’t wait to read it.

  8. Agree with you TOTALLY about the China study – I read it simultaneously to the ‘Diet Delusion’ (or ‘Good Calories/ Bad Calories’) and, whilst confusing to say the least, it was a good way to remind open to the flaws of both arguements..

  9. Um.
    I seriously love you.
    I mean, that whole THIRD paragraph might be the best thing I have read in a LONG time! Thankfully I had just swallowed the large gulp of water I had taken, or surely my lovely macbook would be wearing it now!
    Thanks for the commentary on the China Study. Appreciate your insight!